Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So has it helped.....

So now I am trying to tie things together and see where my thinking is at and has my project done what I hoped it would. Are my children thinking more deeply in response to what others are saying? YES!! And then I guess I have to ask "How do I know?" and "Why?" and "Would it have happened anyway?"

With the e-fellows we have been constantly looking at and asking "How are the literacy skills, knowledge and dispositions needed for the 21st century supported through e-learning contexts?" The answer for me to this question and for how and why do I think my project has worked is because it involved - collaboration, ownership, interaction with a global community, authentic audiences, making connections and being able to review, adapt and modify thinking. You need to be able to communicate and process thinking clearly to succeed. The e-learning context is the world our children (and us) live in - it is the real world now. It provides so many more real and relevant experiences in my opinion that you just don't get using and doing things the way we used to.

I have really embraced we need to help children develop their thinking, process their thinking, show their thinking, transfer their thinking........ We need to give them the necessary tools. We need to find whatever way works for them..... We need to find what ever way will develop global learning communities......We need to......... I saw something that said we need to change everything!!! I disagree, we need to enhance what we are doing, look at the core curriculum, work with the tools that are out there....above all, be adapt and challenge ourselves. We can't just teach children one way is right, we have to give them the tools to challenge and find out for themselves.

Goodness, did I answer my question. Will reflect on it and hopefully someone out there will reflect with me and challenge my thinking.... :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We're Expanding

I started expanding our Literacy Circles to my next reading group down and it is working out great. They are learning about the roles from the original group and I have 2 of them adding to the wiki after a week. It is great because they are reading a book the original group read and put on our wiki. They have been reading what they said about it and are getting ready to add comments and their own contributions. It will be good to see them challenge and ask questions of the original group (if they are brave enough).

Even have a mum who came along and learnt how to use it so she can be helping her child at home. Said it was great because she can come in to the wiki and see so much more of what he is doing each day and can talk about it with him and it will make the work they do at home so much more meaningful and relevant to what he is doing at school.

A funny, neat thing, I have one of my group who every week has been going back to our original book and is adding new things to an argument (discussion) she had right back in May. She is not convinced and wants to keep it going. If this had been just an oral discussion or in our reading book, she would not have been able to keep going back to it, rereading it, and adding to it. It is still live, still current in an on-line environment. Not 'done', put away and moved on from.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We are in a global community!!!!

How great is this!!!!!! Way back in May when we were reading Tomorrow is a Great Word by Janeen Brian we found her website and guest book and a couple of us signed in and posted comments to her. Here we are in August and we got replies from her. This is very exciting. It showed the children they really are part of a global community and that the world is so small. To add to the mix, Janeen lives in Australia but in 2005/6 she lived across the lake from us in Rotorua!!!!! If only we had known.....but then we hadn't discovered how much we liked her books then. If we'd met her, she might have been just another person we met.....we now have a connection to her through her books. Making connections is taking on so much more meaning to us....how often are we asking children to have a deep and meaningful relationship with books and words and speakers they feel no connection with....do we push them to make those connections...just a thought. If you want to see our posts and replies (humble as they are) go to room8.wikispaces.com and go to Tomorrow is A Great Word and then you will find a link to our page of her comments.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I am excited by the success we are having with the children choosing their own books to read. I have had 2 parents comment about how their children are reading, reading and reading (boys!!!) and discussing the progress of their story. They have chosen lengthier books and we decided it would be easier to write a 1-2 sentence summary after each chapter. They race to tell me each day what has happened in the story. They are eager to read each others book next. I am seeing a growing love of books - what more can I ask for, a teacher's dream.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Children's Choice

Today the children decided whether they were ready to go it alone and choose their own book. 4 chose to and 4 decided they wanted to work with the new book I had. I have given them the choice of exploring new roles or if they wish to, keep working with the package of 4 roles we have been using. Interesting for me, when we have discussion groups and interviews with the group I had split them into 4 and 4 (profilic discussers and quieter contributors). This is how they have split today. Not sure what it means, but I guess confidence levels come into play with going it alone. It feels like we are moving to a new dimension now. Probably closer to the truer form of Literature Circles as Harvey Daniels sees it. 

Life will be interesting in our blog/discussions as the children will not have read the same books. The children commented today that they would have to do great summaries so the others would know what their story was about. They also commented that they would probably have more questions to ask each other as they would have to explain more things to each other. Again - the authentic audience and knowing others are interested in what you are writing has come into play and given meaning to the tasks. Quite an exciting direction for us.

Neat to have the children working out with me how me would put their choice of books on our wiki. We think we've got a workable plan - we'll have to see.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spreading the Word

Ran a workshop at our itpd cluster conference on the first Saturday of the holidays along with the 2 other teachers from school who have been working with Literacy Circles. Was really good as one teaches new entrants, I teach Year 4 and the other has Year 5 and 6. We could show how it can be adapted and used for all ages and the different ways we have been using Literacy Circles and the different ways we record our thinking. We had video, blogging, audio recording, writing etc. Was good for me in seeing how I need to organise what I want to share before the Ulearn conference. Was great having the others and the questions they were asking and seeing how they have developed thinking in their children.

Had some good feedback from the session, a couple of teachers from other schools are now having a go and one from an intermediate has taken the idea of creating a wiki and having discussions online as she could see how the children's thinking is developing.

Am running a staffmeeting in a couple of weeks at another school so have a chance to try out things there too.

Am being asked again and again if this is like Reciprocal Reading. I have never used that so am reading up on it. Can see some similarities, but my gut is saying the Literacy Circles go further. Maybe someone else out there can help me become clearer about the similarities and differences.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Connections to Learning

We have continued using the Literacy Circles package which has focussed on the 4 key roles. We are having more natural conversations when we have face to face conversations so feel we are moving more towards what Literacy Circles are really about. Our latest story is Kids Alone in a Cyclone which has been really interesting. Lots of elements within the story that the children could relate to (after school care, walking home, stormy weather...) and also lots of avenues for further exploration. Some great conversations about stranger danger and we are having a good debate on our wiki about what they would do in the same situation.

We have been spending some time talking about Literacy Circles in general and the children are seeing lots of value for them with other learning. We had the summariser connection previously with how this would help them to pick out main points and put into their own words, they are seeing value with the illustrator role as it is helping them to picture a scene and focus on detail (yeah!) and the word detective is a role they are feeling really secure with now. They are prepared to have a go at working out what a word means and then feel able to check using the context of the story (double yeah!!).

The children have also been discussing what sort of books they would choose to read. They trust my selections (have found the stories  really interesting and can't wait for the next one) but some are ready now to go it alone. Again we have headed towards the true spirit of Literacy Circles. I am going to have the next story for them but let some choose own story. Might encourage others. 

We have also got some different roles that we have discussed and so need to move from the packaged to trying out some of them. Really loving it all still. Was so pleased in the holidays that some of the children returned to an earlier discussion and added some thoughts. They have really shown they have ownership of the discussions.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Children Taking on Several Roles

We started a new story "The Terrible Techno Turn-Off" by Mandy Hager. It is in a part 3 School Journal and I have found these are great for having some substance to the story. Great because multiple copies are readily available. I put up a pre-question and I had a number of children go in this time to try to answer it. Of course this was just a gut response so we talked about how we might make an informed judgement and the children conducted a Technology Audit for a week for homework. (The story is about children having to do without technology for 2 weeks, the one who shows the most innovative use of their time, wins a prize). The children were able to give evidence to support their opinion from this, so pleased they are learning skills which will transfer to other learning and life. (They can see it too).

For this book I gave the children a Literature Circles package which outlined what they needed to do for 4 roles (Summariser, Questioner, Word Detective and Illustrator). We have been looking more indepth at each of the roles and looking at why the role is important to us. We had been having difficulty with the summariser but have improved on how we do this role with this story. We had a fantastic discussion where the children shared their summaries and discussed what should have been included and why and made suggestions to each other. Yipppeeeee, we had a buzzing bee discussion (not sure of the right term - the children were bouncing back and forward and to each other and I was pretty much obsolete and just added in a comment here and there). And I thought we had killed off discussion.... perhaps we just didn't have anything worthwhile to discuss before.
Had one of the children make a great connection with why the summariser role was important - He thought it was a good role because in other work and reading, if he doesn't quite understand it, he will be able to take out the important parts and put it into his own words.

We now need to look more indepth about what sort of questions we ask. We need to do some skill building on what are good thought provoking questions and what are good question starters.

More and more seeing that working in the online community is driving the children to share more of their thinking and is also making them more careful about what they are writing. They need to be explicit in what they say and it needs to be concise. I think we are moving forward with each story.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Surface Features

Had an interesting chat with the children the other day over the cluster map on our wiki showing where people who are viewing our pages come from. They were very excited to see an American hit. I do believe it made them start thinking a little more about spelling and about punctuation and whether their posts were able to be read clearly by others. (May also have been their own comments to each other about what do you mean etc). Had one of the girls writing a list and she suddenly saw how much easier it would be if it had comma's separating the ideas. Real audience = caring about what we write, paying attention to detail??? Hope so. I am starting to see some differences, hope others will too soon. So easy to see the mistakes, not so easy to see the development of thinking etc.

Over a Hurdle

The children had hit a bit of a block and were finding it a bit more difficult with the roles. We talked about it and did some discussions together and seem to be over the hurdle and getting more of our role completed. It is great that although the children had an assigned role, they still feel able to slip into a different role if need be. I am finding the children are starting to revisit old discussions and questions and adding further to what they have previously said. Shows me they are constantly thinking about it. Love having the discussions still there to go back to....in our books or on charts, we move on and tend to stay moved on and don't seem to go back to things. Once our thought is there, it is there for life. On the wiki we are able to change our mind, clarify things, explain more.

Most of the children I feel are becoming more specific in what they are writing (others still need to be reminded), early days still. I like in the word detective section, the children are beginning to refer to the page and what sentence a word was in - keep saying in their running records that their needs are about vocab in the context it is used and about getting evidence from text to support answers. Feel like I am beginning to target this now.

Had a funny moment the other day (am I creating monsters). One of the children asked the word detectives if they knew what a word meant. I asked if he had tried looking himself, and he said "No! I am making them do their role properly, I am busy doing mine!" You had to hear the tone that went with it......

Nearly time to move to a new story although I do think there is so much more to get out of this book. Will have to think of what is best over the long weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

News is Spreading

Also feel really good that a couple of other teachers are working with the Literature Circles too. One in Junior and one in the Seniors so I am able to get a look at how they work throughout the school. We are all using them differently but in just a short time can see how deeper the thinking is. The junior class used the story - The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Some good connections to be made there with ourselves. Quite keen to try that story out myself now. Great to have others to talk to it about, it's hard to share with others who are not sure what you are on about. But slowly the word is creeping out.

Contact with Author and Inspiration

Feeling really pleased with myself as I found the authors website and have emailed her. She seems to be the kind that responds to people so might hear back from her. She has written so many books, I like the look of a few others. (Trust me to pick the only one out of print). 

Also made contact with Laura Candler who is pretty much the brains behind Literature Circles. Every search I make comes up with her resources and if not hers then they refer to her. I am using some of her role sheets and on her site she had said that people were free to use them in their class and school. Because I want my wiki to be a one stop resource place, I really wanted to upload her sheets. Emailed her and asked her permission to do that and she emailed back within a couple of hours and said it was fine, just make sure the credit line is there. Think it is great to acknowledge the work she has done in making the resources and would never claim them as my own, but feel a lot more comfortable that she knows I am using them and will be able to have them on the wiki. She has many, many resources and thoughts about teaching so well worth people visiting www.lauracandler.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Great Book

This book has been a great catalyst for things. (Tomorrow is a Great Word) How could such a great book be buried on our bookshelf in the resource room and even worse be out of print now. Have contacted publisher, maybe they might reprint if they get enough good feedback about it. Going to try to contact the author also, she might have loads of copies of it still.

The children initially have found it really hard trying to do the roles in just a pair. A couple of times they've wanted to give up but we have refocussed and worked through it. Taking us much longer to get things posted as they are putting a lot more thought into their roles. The word detectives have found it quite hard as they know they are trying to help others understand what words and phrases mean, not just themselves. They have to be clearer. The illustrators really thought they might have an easy time of it, but they have seen there is much more thought having to go into depicting a scene.

Found we needed to do some more work on what an earthquake was like that is on that scale and it has spun off into some homework tasks and going to other sites. Found a really neat site which had an earthquake simulator which the children could use. Being in Rotorua we experience little earthquakes all the time, but to get to grips with an earthquake of the magnitude of the one in the story was difficult. A fine line between showing the children and scaring them senseless. Hopefully I have got it right. It has really reinforced to me how great developing the wiki is as I could just add the links to the site. I was also able to post a new question for them to answer right away. I am able to do things at the moment I think of it, the children can go on at a time that suits them also if they are going in at home.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Capturing the Thinking

With this latest book (Tomorrow is a Great Word) I decided to put pairs in each role in the hope they would support each other and I would be able to get discussion between the pairs. This has worked for a couple of the pairings, being a fly on the wall I am able to hear what I think is discussion, bouncing ideas back and forth, agree, disagreeing, moving on. (Voice recorders are a wonderful invention). For a couple of pairs they are trying to go it alone. Showed me also the refocussing I need to do - e.g the Summarisers are having a good discussion but I don't think they are quite sure of their role yet and what they need to end up with. Think they need a story map to help them with making decisions on events. Early days.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Woo Hoo Moment

We read our new story today. Had the video running and the voice recorder and it didn't phase the children at all with it going, so that was good. 

Had such a neat moment today. At the end of the story one of my children said out of the blue, "I can make a connection between this and the 3 little pigs story we read - they are both about fear. Different kinds of fear, but there was fear in both stories." It was just so neat, he went on to tell us about his experiences of being in an earthquake and how scared he'd been, and how she must have been really scared. It was just so great for me that so early in our work on Literacy Circles and the roles, that he clearly saw something and was sharing it.

It worked out today that the children asked for different roles, some interesting choices but they were the roles they felt they could contribute to the most for this story so great. Am heading to them making those choices and they've done it early for me. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Tomorrow is a Great Word by Janeen Brian

Am starting a new story tomorrow (Monday). We are going to try to move on from us all doing each role to beginning to take on the different roles ourselves. I am going to work this time with 2 children per each role so they can support each other as it is all so new  for us still. I am going to take on the role of Questioner for this book as I want to still show them the depth I will be expecting for that role. Tomorrow will be just reading the story and setting them the task for each role and hopefully Tuesday we will start getting into the roles. As they initially read the story I will get them to circle words they are unsure of or find unusual so they can ask the Word Detective to explore those words if they have not covered them. 

A bit unsure of how to have both face to face discussions as well as the blog discussions. Guess this will play itself out in time, at what point do we need the face to face?....

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Good Session Today

Had a session with the children today where they were being word detectives and really felt they were thinking with their posts. They are starting to see that their discussions are for a wider audience than them, if they explain what a word means, they might help someone further away, doesn't have to be just for the group.

Was great today as the kids put some good online dictionary sites on our Word Detective Page on our wiki. They decided that would save them wasting time searching through millions of sites when they search for a definition.  Wish I'd been that clever ages ago, the hours I spend searching for things. Getting the idea of the difference between a phrase and a word and how searching for a meaning needs to be done differently.

I think they love the fact that all their work is right where they left it, no book to find, no paper to lose.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Goodness, video certainly stifles my children's discussions. They kind of clam up and just look to the camera...Guess by doing more they will get used to it. Also thinking...my children just don't have the experience of discussing in a group. They are kind of used to Round Robin talks where they contribute in turn and don't really just contribute freely. Even if we are reading a story and talking about things, it is usually directed through me as the teacher, taking turns. So many skills to learn and do.  

The blogging for the sake of it tends to have tapered off and as we are learning more about the roles, it is taking longer for the children to post as they are now putting more thought and research into what they are putting up. Guess this is also the second week of working with the book so our initial questions are asked, we are now looking at deeper thinking to try to answer some of our questions.

Having technology that works is the biggest frustration. Of the 6 desktop computers in my room, 1 is working at the moment!!!!! Thank goodness for two laptops and a suite with enough computers. Blogging is great and working in online environments fantastic - if you get on there.....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blog Junkies

I do believe my children are turning into blog junkies. Might be time to have the conversation about only commenting or blogging if we have something further to add. Interestingly, if I wait, the children are beginning to monitor each other and starting to ask why someone has said something and asking them to add further to their post.  On the other hand today when the children were all adding to the discussions on their individual computers, I had one child say, "Can't I just run across and ask what they mean." 

The first face to face discussion we had about our story I noticed 3 children not contributing. When we went to blogging our thoughts, these same 3 were almost the first to post a comment and one in particular was asking about what a word meant (she would never do that in a group discussion.

Another teacher at school is doing Literacy circles without the blogging and is now feeling inspired to try it to see if she can find the next level of enthusiasm and particularly the want from the children to contribute from home etc. 

Monday, April 27, 2009


Showed the kids our wiki and we talked about the literacy circle roles and started a few discussions. Nothing too deep and meaningful yet, the kids just want to post, post, post. They are itching to add to discussions. Most of the group has now joined wikispaces so they can work from home. Some of these are children  are reluctant to do homework, but here they are working at 4:30pm from home. I wonder/hope this level of enthusiasm will keep up.  Somehow I think it will.

Had an interesting moment yesterday. While showing the kids how to post a discussion, I was typing while they talked. I'm a pretty fast typer, but one of the girls told me my typing can't keep up with her thinking. She was frustrated because she had to stop and back track and remember what she'd been saying. (Sometimes not a bad thing) but talking straight into a recorder is perhaps the way for her.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wiki Discussions

I have decided that the children will be blogging on our wiki site. Now I have been using it more, I know how it can work. For each book I have started a new page. As the children sort out their statements, ideas for their role they will start a discussion. The other members of the group can go in and read each discussion and comment, disagree, argue...

I am still not sure if this all means we are going to be duplicating real discussions we are having face to face. Guess what I am hoping for is that the children will be having face to face discussions, other people will hopefully be coming in to comment on what they have said. Will also be a place for them to add to their own thinking, keeping a record of their evolving ideas.

Greatest problem still at the moment is finding multiple copies of the books I want to use. "Tomorrow is a Great Word" is out of print. I have managed to find one copy on a used book site and it is being shipped from England. Luckily I have a big book copy already. This does make it harder as the books have got to grab me and the children. An issue I guess that needs to be addressed is that the books we have in school that have multiple copies are pretty lightweight and I don't believe will do much to promote discussion. Perhaps I am underestimating them?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wiki Site

I have been working on my wiki site which is where I am putting all my resources etc about Literacy Circles and where the children will be carrying out their discussions. This is a link to it so you will be able to see my action plan and books there. It is still being developed but I am learning a lot about the site.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Action Plan

I am still experimenting with different blog sites so that I can find the easiest for my children to
use. (Probably should be saying for me to use). I am beginning to think that this site is one of the easiest to use and so straight forward. I am contemplating setting up a new one where we will blog our Literacy Circle discussions although wikispaces does have a lot of facility for adding the resources like the story and role clarification.

My biggest worry at the moment - 'What if no-one comes into our blog and comments and challenges the childrens' thinking?' My reply to self 'Does that really matter. They have still recorded their thinking and shared with each and challenged each other perhaps.'

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where am I at?

At the moment the children and I have been "playing" with the gear we are going to use to record our discussions. We would have done this a lot faster if I had just left the kids to it. They have mastered the easyspeak mike which I think will be great for them to really record their initial thoughts and use these on the blog. I think it is all too easy for the children to change their thinking when they are writing. They can easily be influenced by others and seem to stress about spelling. Guess their teacher does too if it is going out into the big wide world. A hang up from old. I think it is a great way for the kids to get down fast what they think, listen to it, discuss it and all the time capturing those moments.

I have decided our first practise story is going to be the True Story of the 3 Little Pigs as this is a fun story and will help the children to get to know the roles in a Literacy Circle. We are just going to record our thoughts etc and work at the same time on getting used to blogging. To remind the children of the story they recorded a retelling of The 3 Little Pigs. The traditional story as they remember it. Was a great chance to use the mike, work collaboratively, argue a little, discuss, modify etc etc.... Method in my madness generating a little conflict along the way.

I am still getting our blog page together. Thank goodness for holidays to get it looking ok. Will be posting links when I think it is ready for public consumption.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I am embarking on my e-fellow project. I am just fine tuning what I will be inquiring into, but this is it so far. In my project I want to know if Literacy Circles and Blogging can create deeper understanding in response to what others say. My children will share and discuss their ideas and opinions about book themes, characters and connections to their world. They will share their findings in their blogs and by being challenged by what others share I hope to see that their thinking will keep evolving and they will engage in discussions which while perhaps change their thinking, will also challenge others to reflect on their thinking as well. We will be using Literacy Circles to help us probe deeper into books. Our first book will be 'Tomorrow is a Great Word' by Janeen Brian. This is a great book which I find interesting in the style of writing, the themes within it and the connections I have been able to make to our local area.